The Decatur Daily Democrat
As a result of the snowy and icy conditions, students from all area schools were forced to stay at home. The cancellation of three days of in-person instruction resulted in North Adams Community Schools performing instruction through Synchronous E-Learning on Microsoft Teams for the first time this school year. Students joined together with their teachers through video conference in an effort to best simulate in-person instruction. Elementary School students had a two-hour block of instruction, while middle school and high school went through a seven-period day with 20-minute class periods.
“This got a much better response from students,” explained North Adams Director of Learning Tiffany Heine. “We received very positive feedback from families through email and social media saying that this was much easier and engaging than what we have done in the past.”
Heine has served in this position since June 2020 after previously working with the Huntington and East Allen School Districts. Her everyday focus is overseeing all professional development, curriculum, assessments, instruction, and federal grants. She explained that despite the state allowing three standard e-learning days, where teachers post assignments on Canvas for students to do, North Adams decided not to utilize these. Following the utilization of three built in snow days later in the year, the school jumped straight to doing synchronous e-learning.
The movement of synchronous e-learning within school districts across the country came about during the COVID19 pandemic when schools were forced to close their doors. Many schools looked to sites like Zoom to provide classes similar to in-person instruction. Heine explained that while the North Adams adopted the use of video systems for teacher office hours, they did not do a mass instruction. They made the decision moving forward that any day where e-learning had to be utilized, they would not do a standard e-learning day because it was less successful and instead, they would resort to synchronous classes.
“Previously we realized e-learning could be challenging for some of the younger students because they had to navigate the website,” said Heine. “With synchronous e-learning, the teacher is able to lead them through everything.”
Despite the high internet usage that the classes demanded, Heine recounted that there were only a few issues that were brought about by connectivity. Most families who did not utilize strong internet connective services in their homes had an alternative location to complete their school work.
“It was a fantastic thing to see. There were some small bumps and that happens when you rely too much on technology, but our tech department is fantastic and did an amazing job of working on and fixing any issues that came up” Heine stated. She also applauded teachers in those few instances for their flexibility in working with their students.
Teachers utilized creativity when coming up with the lessons. The Director of Learning gave two different examples of instruction that took place. In one elementary school classroom, a teacher read a story to the students over the Teams video and then they were able to discuss it, while in one of the high school CTE classes, the teacher spoke about a piece of equipment and gave demonstrations about how the students will use it in the future.
Moving forward, synchronous e-learning will only become smoother. She explained that on the school’s professional development day on Wednesday, one of the top priorities will be getting together with teachers and discussing ways to improve the student’s experience.